First off, Happy New Year from West Yellowstone, Montana.
The past 12 months was filled with wonderful memories on and off the river. Thanks to those of you who diligently return to fish with Big Sky Anglers each season, and to those first timers who trust in our word, we continue to thrive in this competitive fly fishing world. With out the support of you – the reader, the traveling angler and our own families, BSA would not exist. So, hats off to all of you! We appreciate it more than you will ever know.
While sleeping sitting on the couch the past couple of days, I have been running through photos from the past year. I picked a few…… I hope you enjoy.
Making my way down Barnes Hole #1 this afternoon was worth the time spent. I have a few days off and then a run of trips, so I figured some R & D was not only good for me, but for the days to come as well. Walking the Madison in YNP is pretty nostalgic. Having not wet a line in this section of the river since last Fall, the ritual of relearning the river feels good. I get to fish, however I choose, and end up talking with some interesting folks. One can’t help but eavesdrop on the conversations along the banks and in the parking lot while rigging for the river. I don’t participate much in the chatter, which is full blown right now as anglers ascend on the Madison River, but there is definitely some funny shit going on out there. The Old dudes talk politics and the younger crowd discusses fly patterns and fish numbers. Some drop names like Jacklin or Brooks and then quote The Living River trying to feel fishy. Charlie is long gone, but his spirit lingers and Bob is a living legend – red suspenders, plaid shirt, black glasses and that never ending loop.
All bullshit aside, there are not huge numbers of runners in the river just yet. Yesterday’s rain and clouds, followed by today’s rain and clouds is helping things along. However, I did my best while nymphing in the sunshine in between the storms. Nymphing a big fly and something smaller off the back seems to well for me after the morning in which I usually swing flies. I fish Zonkers, sculpin patterns, stones flies, prince nymphs, pheasant tails, partridge & peacock, RAM caddis and various lightning bugs.
At one point this afternoon, BWOs emerged so I switched out to a #18 purple lightning bug behind a girdle bug. In just a few moments, I had a 21 inch brown to the hand and then three more runners hooked and off in the next twenty minutes. The BWOs quite and caddis popped just for bit. Back to the RAM Caddis and a couple more fish hooked up. This is not rocket science, it’s fishing, which can actually feel like rocket science from time to time. The runners are lake fish. So, they are not that picky. Drift the fly, near the bottom for as long as you can and set the hook. Take a step down stream and do it again. Swing out the end of your drift as this is about the only time one can actually rely on hooking a fish this way. Set on the pause of the bobber, on the hard take or if some inner voice tells you to set the hook, then do it. Fishing is instinctive, so don’t second guess – react to the moment at hand.
The Professor is in town, from Wisconsin, and is enjoying his new found retirement. His pick-up truck is littered with fly rods, waders, duck decoys, shot guns and a fine bird dog named Cody. Howard’s trip this fall will span the next 6 weeks……..that’s one heck of a retirement vacation. Yesterday, we hunted elk in the morning and fished the Madison in the evening. We had a spike bull come in to 30 yards (I was close to full draw but spikes are illegal to shoot in this district) and found some brown trout on the Madison that were active and willing.
More of the same.
The Madison River has been inconsistent as of late. Why? Who knows at this point. The river is starting to cool off and quite possibly, the fish are getting used to this. Brown trout are on the move throughout the river system, some days they are on the bite and some days they aren’t. Browns are hard to understand – they feed when they feel like it. The full moon is on it’s way out, so maybe more fish will feed during the day. At this point, one can have a banner day on the Madison and then have a tougher day the next. Yesterday, I floated my parents down the Madison River and my Mother, above, caught more fish than my Dad! While the bite was a little off, we had our best luck fishing nymphs and dead drifting streamers. The morning bite has been much better than the afternoon bite – at least for my boat. The hopper fishing this season has been less than stellar. Walking the banks of the river one will find less hoppers than the past few years. Yet, when hiking in the mountains and the benches above the Madison, there are quite a few. Will they migrate down to the banks of the river during September? Hopefully so.
Over the Labor Day weekend I joined up with Steve Hoovler, owner of Oarsman Expeditions, for an Oarsman Road Trip. We picked the fellas up in Bozeman and headed over to Paradise Valley for a float on the Yellowstone, then spent a day fishing an unnamed river in YNP and wrapped up the trip on the Madison River. Vince, below, had never cast a flyrod prior to this trip but picked up the techniques and caught some nice fish over the three days. Summer road trips are a ton of fun – three rivers in three days. Thanks Steve!
There are places in the Park that change every year, river bottoms undergo a massive change each season. Ever read the Living River? If you fish river at all, it gives a wonderful perspective of the Madison River and the changes it has went through during the days of Charlie Brooks. The 6X6 bull elk rack, above from today, was not in this spot last fall, when I was here last. I wonder if the river brought it downstream and left it here for us to enjoy?
The Lamar is on it’s way down, after a huge plug of mud from thunder storms in the NE Corner found it’s way in the river. The Yellowstone in Montana blew out as well, but things have settled down a bit on that side of the Park and the Yellowstone has 2.5-3 feet of visibility. I heard mixed reports today…..we are headed over to there tomorrow as long as the flows keep dropping by morning. When the NE Corner is clear, it has been fishing well with ants, hoppers, smallish PMXs, various mayfly patterns and Wulff Cripples.
The Madison River in MT has the best flows for this time of the year since I started guiding it, 14 years ago. The temps coming off Hebgen Lake are a bit warm in the afternoon, however, the river is still holding it’s own from dawn till about 3pm. If we can get PPL and FWP to release these flows once the damn is fixed, the Madison will explode with trout. Not that there aren’t good fish in the Madison, but we all know there could be a few more larger trout.
All winter long I write about Yellowstone National Park and post, from time to time, a few things about fly fishing. During the summer, I hardly ever I write about the curiosities of Yellowstone as fishing consumes me. Hiking without a fly rod is simply strange……as most of you know, the Park waters are not yet open to fishing, therefore I had to leave the rod at home. Most of the rivers in YNP are muddy and should be clear by the end of June. The Firehole will be fishable when the Park opens at the end of this month.
My wife, the Park Ranger, and I took hike yesterday up Specimen Ridge to look for petrified trees which have been exposed from wind, snow and rain erosion. Yellowstone has the largest collection of petrified trees in the United States, some say the world. A few trees are upright, in the growing position, yet geologists argue whether or not these trees actually grew right here or got pushed to this place by glaciers or mud flows…….geologists love to argue. 40-55 million years ago, these trees were covered in ash and volcanic mudflows. At one point in time Redwoods grew here, telling us that the climate was much warmer and closer to the ocean, than today.
This blue grouse, or dusty grouse, was in full mating display for several minutes. We sat down, watched and listened as he courted the female about 3 feet away. Springtime in Yellowstone is one of the best time frames for seeing wildlife without the crowds of summer. We saw eight different bears on our drive through the Park, two different sets of a sow and two cubs, and two different single griz browsing for food. Don’t forget that bear spray!